World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off Belgium

World’s first 6 MW wind turbine installed in Thornton Bank offshore wind farm. 30 wind turbines to be installed by September 2012. It marks another step along the road towards larger offshore wind power plants.

The world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine has been installed in the Belgian offshore wind farm Thornton Bank. The system of the manufacturer REpower Systems has a rated capacity of 6.15 megawatts (MW) and is the first of altogether 48 wind turbines of this type to be installed in the second and third development stage of the Thornton Bank wind farm off the Belgian coast. The first development stage with a total capacity of 30 MW (six 5 MW turbines) has been in operation since 2009. Being the largest private investor, RWE Innogy owns 26.7 percent of the Thornton Bank wind farm.

"The installation of the first 6 MW wind turbine in a commercial offshore wind farm is an important milestone for the entire offshore wind industry. It marks another step along the road towards larger offshore wind power plants with ever more powerful machines. The experience we are gathering with the construction of these plants is of great value to us because we are also going to use this turbine in our German offshore wind farm Nordsee Ost," explained Prof. Martin Skiba, Head of Offshore Wind Power at RWE Innogy.

This type of offshore wind turbine is the most powerful of its kind at present with impressive dimensions: The nacelle alone has the size of a two-family house and the rotor with a radius of 126 metre sweeps the surface area of two football pitches. A single turbine can supply the equivalent of 6,000 residential households with electricity per year.

The first 18 rotor blades with a length of 63 metre each reached the base port at Ostend in mid-March. They were delivered from Denmark with heavy goods vehicles by road. The nacelles and tower segments are transported on pontoons by sea from Bremerhaven.

A total of 30 of these wind turbines are to be installed in the construction field of Thornton Bank wind power approx. 30 kilometres off the Belgian coast by September this year. In parallel, it is planned to install a second 40 kilometres long export cable to the onshore grid connection point at Sas Slijkens in the next weeks. During the last few days a substation with a weight of 2,000 tons has already been installed successfully offshore. In 2013 the installation of the remaining 18 wind turbines will follow.

Once complete, the Thornton Bank wind farm will have an installed capacity of some 325 MW and supply the equivalent of about 600,000 people with electricity per year. At present, the wind power plant is Europe’s largest project-funded offshore wind farm. A total of eight European banks, including the European Investment Bank as well as the German and Danish Export Credit Agency, provide € 900 million worth of financing and risk sharing for the development of the wind farm. The total investment amounts to approx. 1.3 billion Euros.

By José Santamarta,